@ Saenger Theatre
November 14, 2018
A week after attending an Ace Frehley concert, I returned to the beautiful Saenger Theatre in Pensacola, Florida for a Christmas concert! Mannheim Steamroller has been a holiday favorite of mine for many, many years. If you’re not familiar with the group, they play instrumentals of neoclassical/new age/progressive music. My earliest memory of them is hearing their classic Mannheim Steamroller Christmas album from 1984 while at a family gathering over the holidays back in the late ’80s. In the last 10 years or so, I’ve reconnected with their music and they are constantly in rotation alongside other favorites like Bing Crosby, Trans-Siberian Orchestra & Frank Sinatra.
They’ve been coming to Pensacola during the holiday season fairly regularly the last few years, but I could never get any family or friends willing to go with me. This year I decided to take the plunge and go on my own since everyone else wants to be a Grinch or Scrooge!
I had an orchestra seat this time. The building was packed and was probably 99.97% full from what I could see (there was a seat open next to me).
Like TSO, there are two touring groups during the holiday season in order to cover as much of the country as possible. There is the Red touring cast and the Green touring cast. This show was part of the Green tour, but Mannheim Steamroller leader and founder Chip Davis was in the building and walked out on stage to say a few words at the beginning of the show and came out at the end as well. According to the program guide, Chip Davis is conducting the musical version of ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ at Universal Studios Orlando this season, so I’m assuming that’s why he was able to put in an appearance in Pensacola, since it’s only 8 hours away.
There were a few non-holiday songs such as the intro of “Aire On a G String” and “Escape from the Atmosphere” (complete with NASA footage and space images on the large screen behind the group) to start the evening. Kind of an odd inclusion for a show being promoted as a “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas”, especially when this is what you’re opening the show with. It wasn’t bad, just felt a bit out of place for what was being promoted as a holiday show. Plus, even though they aren’t strictly a holiday musical group Mannheim Steamroller has like 50 holiday albums of music to choose from. I personally would have preferred they filled the show with seasonal music. The show would again divert from holiday music with the inclusion of “Four Rows of Jacks” and “Toccata” in the second half. I really enjoyed “Toccata”, but again, there’s so many holiday songs to pull from the group’s albums to easily fill an entire night’s performance.
I was very pleased with the holidays songs the band did play as they played four of what I would consider my top five songs from the group: “Deck the Halls”, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Rock)”, “Faeries” & “Carol of the Bells”. The only other song I came into the show hoping they played was “White Christmas”, which is from their 2001 Christmas Extraordinaire album.
Overall, the musicianship was top-notch and the program handed out that night thankfully provides the names of the musicians. Roxanne Layton was especially fun to watch. She was very energetic and was center stage playing recorders and all kinds of percussion instruments. The drummer Logan Penington was great as well.
I had a good time and would see them again if they return to the area. This is a must-see event for any fans of holiday music.
Green Tour Cast:
Becky Kia Mills – Violin, Conductor
Jed Moss – Piano, Synthesizer
Andrew Malashock – Guitar, Bass
Edward Berry – Harpsichord, Synthesizer
Roxanne Layton – Percussion, Recorder
Logan Penington – Drums
& The Mannheim Steamroller Orchestra
“Aire On a G String”
“Escape from the Atmosphere”
“Deck the Halls”
“We Three Kings”
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”
“Catching Snowflakes on Your Tongue”
“Away In a Manger”
“Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”
“The Little Drummer Boy”
“O Holy Night”
“Angels We Have Heard On High”
“Joy to the World”
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Rock)”
“Four Rows of Jacks”
“Faeries from ‘The Nutcracker'”
“Good King Wenceslas”
“Carol of the Bells”